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Hoff, 15, can end suspense quickly

Crime, Law and JusticeTrials and ArbitrationSportsColleges and UniversitiesU.S. Olympic TeamUSCKatie Hoff

LONG BEACH, Calif. - A little over six weeks ago, Katie Hoff dived into a chilly and choppy pool up the coast at the Santa Clara International and announced the feasibility of her making the U.S. Olympic team.

Tonight, she can reach that goal.

Hoff, a 15-year-old who moved from Virginia to Abingdon and joined the North Baltimore Aquatic Club last summer, is the second seed in the 400-meter individual medley, which will be the only women's final on opening night of the U.S. Olympic Team Trials.

Hoff was to enter this morning's preliminaries at the Charter All Digital Aquatic Center as the second seed, thanks to the 4:39.82 she posted at Santa Clara.

The American record is 4:37.58. Only five American women have ever gone faster than Hoff, who will be up against international and NCAA veterans.

Auburn University's Maggie Bowen went 4:39.06 in 2001, and took the silver medal at the 2003 world championships.

The competition for the two Olympic berths also includes post-grads Kaitlin Sandeno and Maddy Crippen, who went 1-2 at the 2000 trials; Stanford's Kristen Caverly and Florida's Sara McLarty.

"Katie is ready to go," said Paul Yetter, her coach with the NBAC's Harford satellite team. "Going to the Olympic trials is a new experience, but we're going about it as a regular meet."

Hoff is among the top five seeds in the 200 IM, and will also swim the 200 breaststroke here.

Courtney Kalisz, another member of the NBAC Harford team, will also go in the 400 IM today. A month before she enters the ninth grade, the 14-year-old from Fallston will also compete in the 200 butterfly and 200 backstroke.

Vendt stands ready

One of the best races staged in North America in recent years came at the 2002 Summer Nationals in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in which Erik Vendt pushed a then-17-year-old Michael Phelps to a world record in the 400-meter individual medley.

Phelps won't get the luxury of cruising through that race today because Vendt, still the third-fastest man ever in the event, appears primed for a personal best himself.

Phelps' world record is 4:09.09, which he posted in the last of his 13 races at the 2003 world championships.

Kevin Clements of the NBAC has the fifth-fastest seed time in the 400 IM, but coach Bob Bowman sounded iffy as to his participation. Clements might be resting for a shot in the 200 freestyle, which will be contested tomorrow and Friday.

Et cetera

Emily Goetsch, who delayed her entry into the University of Southern California to remain with the NBAC, won the 100 butterfly at the 2003 Summer Nationals, but she'll be chasing Jenny Thompson and others when that event kicks off today. ... Besides the 400 IMs, the only other final that will be contested tonight is the men's 400 freestyle. Phelps, the American record-holder, passed on the event, so 2000 Olympians Klete Keller and Chad Carvin are the favorites.

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